Raghu Rai’s photographs focus on Delhi slums

Semiclad children running around with snotty noses, the dirt and filth surrounding a precarious sprawl of slipshod brickwork and corrugated roofing – environments that slumdwellers call home – form the subject of new work by ace photographer Raghu Rai.

Rai’s camera focuses on the slums of Delhi to highlight the struggle for living, the poverty and deplorable conditions of children as part of a collaborative project between him and the NGO Save the Children.

‘It is usually foreigners who project people on the streets as a way of depicting poverty. In my 45 years of photography so far I have tried to avoid the subject but now I feel it is necessary to make people more aware and sensitive to the glaring disparities and contradictions that mark everyday life in India. More so with respect to children,’ Rai said.

According to a May 2011 survey by the Ministry of Housing and Poverty Alleviation, one out of five people in Delhi is a slum-dweller.

And, Rai has trained his lens mostly on children who have to live in such inhospitable localities. He captures life in the congested bylanes of Sanjay Colony slum in the Okhla area in south Delhi. There are pictures of families living under the flyover, children playing and the daily hustle bustle.

‘I have clicked pictures of urchins fighting with each other, hitting and abusing one another and also of them picking up puppies,’ says Rai who wants people to be sensitive to their neighbourhood and the lesser privileged.

The photobook by Raghu Rai has a foreword by social activist Aruna Roy.

She writes, ‘Raghu’s photographs of children on the fringes of an affluent society provoke a whole gamut of emotions... Young children look you in the eye, with a confidence which defies their emaciated bodies and difficult conditions.

‘Children are beautiful. Poverty does not deprive children of their spirit, creativity and fun. These pictures show dire conditions, but in middle of these circumstances, they capture the dignity of their persona.’

Rai’s journey with child rights NGO ‘Save the Children’ began three years ago when he was approached to take pictures in the slums of Delhi as a part of their campaign against preventable child deaths in India.

The campaign is linked to UN Millennium Goal 4 that calls for cutting child mortality by 2/3 by 2015. Recently, Rai launched his book accompanied by a four-day photo exhibition. Up next on the ace photographer’s calender is an exhibition on the city of Delhi.
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